Scottie Scheffler shot 7-under par 65 with birdies on two of the final three holes Saturday to hold a one-shot lead going into the final day of The Players Championship on the TPC Sawgrass course at Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Min Woo Lee of Australia shot 66, but his bogey on the 18th hole to close out the third round dropped him out of a share of the lead before Scheffler sank another birdie putt for a late two-shot swing.
“I just stick to my routine, that’s pretty much it,” Scheffler said, on his approach to the daunting group of closing holes. “Just remember to breathe, and breathing is part of my routine, and I’ve imagined being in those moments and so I know that I’m prepared to be in them.”
Cam Davis of Australia (67) is alone in third place at 10 under. The English duo of Tommy Fleetwood (65) and Aaron Rai (65) are in a group of four tied for fourth place at 9 under, along with Chad Ramey (68) and South Africa’s Christiaan Bezuidenhout (69).
Tom Hoge broke the course record with 10-under 62, shooting 31 on each side and going through the third round without a bogey. His 10 birdies in the round allowed him to rocket forward into a tie for eighth place at 8 under, while putting an opening-round 78 in the past.
“I didn’t even know it was a course record until after we got done,” Hoge said. “Today was going to be the day to do it … because it was soft with little wind, so you felt like you could make birdies and keep trying to make birdies. So just felt fortunate and tried to take advantage of it the best I could.”
Because Friday storms resulted in a suspension of play the second round was completed Saturday morning. The third round followed and was conducted with players in groups of three, starting on the first and 10th tees.
While Scheffler was 2 under on the back nine, with his birdies at Nos. 16 and 18 to close his third round, he put together a wild ride on the front. He had a birdie at No. 1, an eagle 3 at No. 2, birdies at Nos. 5, 8 and 9, with a bogey 5 at No. 7. It was his lowest career round at The Players Championship.
“I got off to a nice start, which is always good. Kept it rolling from there, gave myself a lot of looks,” Scheffler said. “Good finish as well. So overall very solid day, only one bogey, which is really good around this golf course.”
Lee began the third round with an eagle on the par-4 first hole and had birdies at No. 5 4, 6 and 9 to shoot 31 on the front nine.
Rai delivered a hole-in-one at the iconic 17th with its island green, while playing the final three holes in 4 under.
“In the second after (the ace), I looked to the right towards my caddie and he came running at me. So it happened very fast,” Rai said. “But it feels very vivid now. … I couldn’t quite believe that it happened, but very, very special. Very special. Something I’ll always remember.”
Adam Svensson held the lead after the second round was complete Saturday morning. He was two shots in front of Scheffler, the 2022 Masters champion, at the start of the third round. Svensson fell off the pace with a 75 in the third round to land in a 12-way tie for 14th place at 6 under.
Unable to make the two-round cut was Rory McIlroy, who shot 76 and 73 and finished his two rounds at 5 over. World No. 1 Jon Rahm withdrew before the second round because of illness, only Scheffler advancing to the third round among the top three ranked players in the world.
McIlroy said his leadership that has been evident in his unwavering support of the PGA Tour in the battle against the rival LIV Golf has taken a toll.
“I’m ready to get back to being purely a golfer,” McIlroy said.
–Field Level Media